Digestive Diseases and Sciences

, Volume 45, Issue 6, pp 1121–1129

Is Crohn's Disease an Immunodeficiency?

  • Joshua R. Korzenik
  • Brian K. Dieckgraefe


The current hypothesis for the etiology of Crohn's disease proposes an excessive immune response, largely T-cell driven, possibly against endogenous bacteria. Standard therapy is therefore directed towards suppression of this immune response. An alternative theory of pathogenesis accounts for epidemiologic and pathophysiologic observations that have been hitherto underemphasized, namely, (1) genetic disorders with deficiencies in neutrophil function can give rise to a clinical and pathologic syndrome indistinguishable from Crohn's; (2) abnormal neutrophil function is well described in Crohn's disease; (3) a group of bacteria implicated in other chronic inflammatory disorders causes impairment of neutrophil function; and (4) 20th century environmental risk factors for Crohn's disease may directly suppress neutrophil function and may have led to a shift in the dominant gut flora with similar effects. We propose that some cases of Crohn's disease result from the interaction of environmental and genetic influences leading to impaired mucosal neutrophil function, resulting in failure to effectively clear intramucosal microbes effectively. While encompassing existing data, this hypothesis proposes a proximate defect in the mucosal immune response. If this paradigm were correct, new therapeutic approaches might involve strategies to alter intestinal flora and stimulate neutrophil function.

Crohn's disease inflammatory bowel disease immunodeficiency neutrophil 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joshua R. Korzenik
    • 1
  • Brian K. Dieckgraefe
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Internal MedicineWashington University School of MedicineSt. Louis

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